The United States Ranks 34th of 35 developed nations as to how well we combat child poverty, we have the highest first day infant mortality rate in the industrialized world, and we are 27th in terms of middle class wealth. 46 million Americans now live at or below the poverty line. In fact, the United States rate of first day infant mortality is greater than all other developed nations combined.
Experts among economists along with the United Nations UNICEF and WHO organizations show that Income inequality in the United States has drastically increased in the past decade with millions of people slipping out of the middle class and into the ranks of the working or unemployed poor. The image of the United States with a thriving and growing middle class simply no longer comports with reality. There are simply the rich and then there are the rest of us who are struggling at various levels below the old Cold War middle class standard of the Baby Boom generation’s experience.
Republican obstruction of increasing the $7.25 per hour minimum wage floor to from twelve to fourteen dollars an hour to support a family, deep cuts in dozens of States where Republicans have control limit women’s access to high level pre-natal and post natal childcare, and reproductive health care generally are among the reasons children are suffering so.
The Health Care Affordability Act only just now being implemented in its early stages has great promise in helping our children arrive in a healthier condition and to maintain their health once they are here. But here too Republicans have voted in the House of Representatives forty times to repeal what they call Obamacare. The law was unsuccessfully challenged as unconstitutional with 19 States filing Federal lawsuits and the U.S. Supreme Court finding the law to be Constitutional. Previously the law had been properly passed in both Houses of the Congress and signed into Federal Law by President Obama in 20009. It is the law of the land.
But dozens of State governments have refused to take a large amount of money to expand Medicaid which is health care for the poor and most vulnerable Americans. They have enacted draconian laws to defund Planned Parenthood which provides reproductive healthcare to millions of financially poor American women. A large portion of the States also have refused to establish health exchanges that are essential to offering Americans in each State many choices for private healthcare plans at markedly lower cost for quality benefits.
And now, the Republican controlled House of Representatives is setting out to block the Individual Mandate to encourage young, healthy people to sign up for a health plan under the Act. In short, the obstructionist Republicans are doing all they can to block proper implementation of the Health Care Affordability Act, a law that when fully implemented will give high quality health care choices to some 30 million Americans who previously have not had access to it. Tens of millions of these people are children.
State Governments have drastically cut resources for K-12 education. A full six hundred thousand public sector jobs have been lost nationwide and at all levels of government in the past two years. Public sector workers in fact do a great deal to ameliorate income inequality as their skills and abilities are often worth well above the Federal minimum wage. And when fully employed, they contribute greatly to economic growth and consumer demand.
According to something analysts call the gini coefficient the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal in the developed world. We are sandwiched in between such economic juggernauts as Bulgaria and Romania. Even nations most badly impacted by the Euro currency and debt crisis still rank ahead of us as to how well they protect and nurture their children.
Democrats have sought to protect programs and resources devoted to those increasing numbers of poor American children, millions who are white. They have wanted to see spending for schools and implementations of the Health Care Affordability Act proceed more smoothly. They have along with the President sought to make our infrastructure more competitive and provide millions of new quality jobs. Republicans in Congress have blocked these efforts at every turn.
2012 Statistics indicate that virtually 100% of net income growth went to the top one percent of Americans. This is a staggering statistic that highlights the fact that access to improving themselves economically (not necessarily the same as everyone getting the same amount of money) has become quite limited.
College Students who are young and who are gaining skills and knowledge to make them extremely productive Americans now leave school with mountains of debt, few job opportunities other than what their age group might get at the minimum wage or just above bodes ill for their future ability to marry and have families where children can be well cared for.
The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. Parents who don’t have jobs can’t do much to help nurture their children properly. Neither can someone who works a minimum wage job or two, neither of which is full time.
The United States defines poverty as $22,000 or less for a family of four. That’s hard to live comfortably on for a single person, much less a family. UNICEF data indicates that however the poverty line is measured, children in the United States are more likely to fall below the poverty line than in almost any other developed country.
The UNICEF/WHO United Nations reports on Child Poverty, Infant Mortality, and Income Inequality all show the United States has slipped out of the ranks of nations of the first rank in terms of how we treat our children.
Does Struggles for Justice have to remind Americans that children are the most vulnerable among us? They are not yet educated and have not yet taken their places as adults who can more easily care for themselves.
If there were an empathy, compassion, and child welfare coefficient in these numbers it would show that we really don’t care all that much about the health and well-being of children nearly as much as we should and need to. We too often view programs by government to help as aiding people who are not deserving of that help.
We are well behind both Canada and the United Kingdom and Australia who rank 21st, 20th and 18th respectively. Iceland is number one with nations in Scandinavia like Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden ranking in the top ten. Switzerland comes in at 11th, Ireland 12th, and Germany 13th. Those anti-American Fries French come in at 14th, but even their rate is just over a third of what our child poverty rate is as expressed as a percentage of all children.
Sixteen million children live in poverty in the United States at a rate of 23.1% or nearly one in four American children are poor. These other nations have one third to one half the child poverty rate we do. Even financially challenged Greece beats us coming in at 16.0%
Folks, the fact is, the United States for a host of reasons does not place enough resources or make a priority of taking care of our children. We’re a third of worldwide Gross National Product or GDP but we come in next to dead last when measured against the 35 most technologically and advanced nations.
These statistics are even larger than partisan politics. It is a national shame for us to rank so low. But Republicans have obstructed the best efforts of the rest of us to do something about it.
And it is not a matter of budgetary constraints or not having the resources. We lack the will to do something about it and we lack the ability to make fighting child poverty, infant mortality, and income inequality enough of a national priority. Parents who earn more money, better health care for moms and kids and spending more on education, technology and public services can all help.
The income inequality in the United States dramatized by the top one percent of income earners and then the rest of us does have serious consequences—the suffering and struggles brought on by it not evenly shared by all Americans. The horrific results end up hitting children the hardest.
What should we do to change the numbers so that the United States can reclaim its rightful place among the civilized and developed nations of this Earth? For at present levels we look more like a Third World nation than the Super Power and international leader we are and need to be. Shame on us.